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Los Angeles: Departments


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Theater Arts
Dramatic instruction and presentation at Los Angeles began in 1920 and until 1941 was limited to two courses in the Department of English, the annual production of a Greek drama, and a fairly regular series of plays presented by the ASUCLA (student government) on an extracurricular basis.

The first step toward recognition of the theater arts as an established University discipline was the development in 1941 of a curriculum in drama in the College of Applied Arts. This curriculum was composed of existent courses in the Departments of Art, English, Music, Physical Education, and Psychology.

In 1945, when Clarence A. Dykstra was named provost of the Los Angeles campus, he took a deep interest in the arts generally and in theater specifically. Provost Dykstra instituted a series of conferences between faculty members of various departments and local professional leaders in the theater. These conferences resulted in a clarification of the University's view of the purpose and form of a department devoted to instruction and research in theater and in the increasingly important fields of the motion picture and television.

Provost Dykstra charged a committee chaired by Vern O. Knudsen to prepare a curricular pattern for a Department of Theater Arts. The resultant proposal, approved by the combined Los Angeles and Berkeley Committees on Educational Policy, was organized on the plan of three divisions--one devoted to theater, one to motion pictures, and one to radio and television.

In the fall of 1947, the department, under the leadership of its first chairman, Kenneth Macgowan, accepted its first students as candidates for the A.B. degree. In 1950, the department was authorized to offer a course of study leading to the M.A. degree and in 1964, programs leading to the M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees were established. Macgowan served as chairman of the department for six years. Since that time, the chairmanship was held successively by Ralph Freud, William Melnitz, Samuel Selden, and Colin Young.

Requests for permanent housing of the department's activities made in 1947 were repeated yearly. In March of 1963, the first unit of the department's building program, Macgowan Hall, was opened. This building housed offices for the three divisions of the department, a theater plant, and teaching and research laboratories. In 1966, construction began on Theater Arts Unit II. This structure, adjacent to the site of Macgowan Hall, reflected the advanced thinking and technology of motion picture and television production. source

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